#BlackLivesMatter, Politics

frantz fanon, #blacklivesmatter, and american exceptionalism

In my bedroom hangs a poster with the first and last chapter of Frantz Fanon’s book, The Wretched of the Earth. I received it as a gift after seeing the film, Concerning Violence, which I cannot recommend enough. As I looked at it again today, I was struck by these words,

“Two centuries ago, a former European colony took it into its head to catch up with Europe. It has been so successful that the United States of America has become a monster where the flaws, sickness, and inhumanity of Europe have reached frightening proportions” (The Wretched of the Earth, 236-7).

This reminds me again that the US has never been great, but a monster from the beginning. It rears its ugly head when our justice system refuses to condemn any police officer in the murders of Freddie Grey or Tamir Rice or Sandra Bland. And the US defends this monster by repeating, especially at political conventions, the lie of American Exceptionalism.

 

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We’ve got to get over ourselves. 

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#BlackLivesMatter, Philosophy, Scripture

adventure time as a postmodern book of judges

If you haven’t watched Adventure Time, you’re missing out on a delightful, fun,  philosophical, and always zany cartoon. Finn and Jake, a young blonde boy and a mustard colored stretching dog, maintain the roles as the heroes in the Land of Ooo. They battle against creatures and kingdoms that harm. And uniquely, there are many kingdoms: Flame, Ice, Candy, Lumpy Space, and the list just gets stranger. Yet, Jake and Finn do not inhabit any of these kingdoms.

Finn and Jake

The connection to the biblical book of Judges did not seem obvious to me at first. It was an episode from the current season titled “Walnuts & Rain” that tipped me off. Finn and Jake fall into separate holes somewhere in a forest. At the bottom of the hole, Finn finds himself in the Kingdom of Huge. King Huge eats constantly, fed by the Food Boys. Finn asks politely to leave, but the King has the Food Boys bind him. Finn breaks free with some trickery of his own, but was caught by the King. In the nick of time, Jake falls into the same space. With Finn in the King’s giant hands, he asks Jake, “What are you going to do about it?” He said this unassuming of Jake’s stretching abilities. Jakes makes a fist and stretches it across the King’s face. Finally, Jake and Finn make their way out of the hole and travel back to the Tree House.

Finn’s hole adventure parallels the story of Judge Ehud (Judges 3:12-30). In the story, Ehud makes his way to pay tribute (taxes imposed by another empire) to King Eglon of Moab. The writer notes that Ehud is left-handed. He hides a knife on the opposite side, his right leg. (I guess this was not a place where the Ancient TSA patted). He gives the tribute to King Eglon, who also is a huge man, and then asks if he might speak with him privately. In the room alone, Ehud stabs the King, his guts fall out, and Ehud exits through the bathroom into the sewer.

Ehud

In this medieval painting, Ehud’s garb resembles Finn’s. Coincidence? I think not.

Captivity, plan-making, and King-hurting are present in both stories. While Ehud as a judge identifies and fights for the Hebrews, Jake and Finn represent wandering judges, not bound by place. As well, in the Book of Judges, God raises up Ehud. Finn and Jake have a calling, but no caller. Even Grob Gob Glob Grod, who Ooo deems as a deity, does not call creatures to a purpose. When Finn and Jake embark on their adventures and face disruptors, harmers, and just plain evil (The Lich), they perform justice without a telos other than making sure others are unharmed.

Jake and Finn are postmodern characters because they know no boundaries, walls, or patriotism. They are, in a way, part of every kingdom. Sure, they are called upon by Princess Bubblegum of the Candy Kingdom. And Ice King tries to pry himself into their lives, but it’s not as if they are private contractors for the Candy Kingdom. They are outsiders fighting for a just world. 

 

P.S. I believe the biblical tradition of judges continues with such people as Vandana Shiva, Cheryl Clarke, Cornel West, Naim Ateek, the leaderful movement of #BlackLivesMatter, Evo Morales, Gustavo Gutierrez, and Bill Wylie-Kellermann

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Anarchism, Liberation Theology, Radical Commentary

“i met god, she’s black” and the death of the author

The first time I saw “I Met God, She’s Black” it was being worn by a friend at seminary. I thought they made it themselves.

It’s not like there’s a bunch of t-shirt companies who:
a) care about theology
b) even if they did, it would probably be pop-theology. So they could make some money off it
c) that Womanism will become public discourse only when it has some kind of market-value.
So the shirt stood out.

On HuffPo, over the weekend they interviewed the artist of the shirt, Dylan Chenfeld. He’s described as a Jewish Atheist who wants to poke fun of sacred cows.

“I’m taking the idea that God is a white male and doing the opposite of that, which is a black woman.”

Additionally, he says he’s not very religious because it’s sexist (I would add among other things including homophobic, transphobic, pro-capitalism, anti-creation to name a few). Chenfeld’s original intent was to poke fun of the “sacred cows” and maybe some get that point. But it is near impossible to separate the proclamation that #BlackLivesMatter from this shirt. Since August, with the murder of Michael Brown, the shirt has taken on a new meaning and I would add something more powerful. Black lives are divine lives!

In the late 1960’s, cultural and literary critic and theorist Roland Barthes published the essay “The Death of the Author”. He explains that we need to disassociate the text from the author, writing:

“We know that a text does not consist of a line of words, releasing a single “theological” meaning (the “message” of the Author-God), but is a space of many dimensions, in which are wedded and contested various kinds of writing, no one of which is original: the text is a tissue of citations, resulting from the thousand sources of culture.

God as a black woman is political, theological, and moreover, a cultural artifact, in which the artist’s original intent is just a layer among many other meanings. I am thankful for this shirt, but more thankful of the beautiful meanings that have been encouraged. May #BlackLivesMatter be our mantra until we start living it. Maybe then it will be included in our daily and sacred liturgies.

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